- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Sept. 29, 2014.

Purdue murder and stiffer sentences

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington got everything the law allowed in the sentencing of Cody Cousins, a former Purdue University student who murdered fellow senior Andrew Boldt in an Electrical Engineering Building classroom in January.

Cousins received the maximum 65 years in prison after telling Superior Court 2 Judge Thomas Busch and the rest of the court that he killed Boldt because he wanted to - and he did what he wanted to.

But the testimony on Sept. 19 in Busch’s courtroom was enough to back Harrington’s post-hearing lament, when he wondered aloud why Indiana law allowed someone as calculating and callous as Cousins to serve anything less than life in prison.

“He killed a human being and victimized innocent people in a classroom,” Harrington said after the sentencing, calling for a tougher code that would allow at least for life without parole.

State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, said he would be willing to work on a bill that would consider killings done on school campuses to be added to the list of aggravators that put stiffer sentences on the table.

That was one of the questions in the aftermath, as Purdue scrambled to assess warning systems, door locks and more: What if it had happened two blocks away? What if this hadn’t happened on campus? Would it have reverberated the way it did?

But this was the situation: It did, in fact, happen on campus. And it did, in fact, reverberate in ways other crimes don’t always do. Fair or unfair, that’s just the way it is.

Maybe it was the stunning admissions in court. Maybe it was the trauma still felt by classmates in that basement lab that day. Maybe it was the pleading from Boldt’s mother for an explanation of why from Cousins. Or maybe it was the still-fresh memory of a day that shut down campus to all but vigils and silence.

But the thought of Cousins - the one who showed no remorse during his sentencing - getting back on the streets in his mid-50s, provided he earns the good behavior that effectively cuts his sentence in half, is a frightening thought.

Harrington’s seething assessment will make for a compelling argument at the Statehouse.

___

South Bend Tribune. Sept. 25, 2014.

Indiana shouldn’t have gone down this road

It’s been eight years since the Indiana General Assembly began wrangling over the lease of the Toll Road. Eventually, a deal was done and operations of the northern Indiana highway — the only toll road in the entire state — were handed over to ITR Concession Co. for 75 years. In turn, the state pocketed $3.8 billion in upfront cash to help fund a slew of road construction projects statewide.

Now, with the debt-ridden ITR filing for bankruptcy, the debate of whether the sale actually was good for the state has been reignited.

The deal was wrong then because it was not vetted properly before the legislative vote was taken.

In a comment on March 11, 2006, we said that “we do not know whether it is a good idea to lease the Toll Road in exchange for a $3.85 billion up-front cash infusion. It might be. But we do know that it is not a good idea to do it during this short legislative session, without time to conduct an in-depth fiscal analysis of the complex proposal.”

State senators and representatives should have been more deliberative in their approach to the lease. Instead, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels ramrodded the proposal through the General Assembly amid promises that Indiana would use its newly found windfall from the lease to invest in roads and bridges at a time when other states were forced to watch their infrastructure crumble because of lack of funds.

From the start, there was a lack of consensus — certainly in this region — that the proposal was good for Indiana.

Though Gov. Mike Pence said it will be business as usual for the Toll Road despite the bankruptcy filing, other state officials aren’t so sure. “This is our worst fear come to fruition,” is the way the bankruptcy filing was described by state Sen. John Broden, who voted against the lease. Broden is worried tolls will rise while the quality of the road will deteriorate as the bankruptcy winds through the court.

We can’t help but wonder if all this could have been avoided with a more thorough review of the proposal back in 2006.

___

The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. Sept. 24, 2014.

Turner making exit — on his own terms

Rep. Eric Turner long enjoyed a position of power at the right hand - some would say the far right hand - of Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma. It’s fair to say the ties between them now are irrevocably broken.

After years of ethically questionable behavior by his House speaker pro tem, Bosma finally stripped Turner of his leadership post last month when the latter’s business conflicts became too much of a liability. While the General Assembly’s lax ethics rules gave Turner a pass for influencing legislation that would have hurt his own financial interests, the loss of his speaker pro tem title had to hurt.

The Cicero Republican might get the last laugh, however. He announced Friday he’s stepping down from his post after the election and will accept a job with a Georgia-based Christian leadership training company.

While his caucus drew reliably Republican districts after the 2010 Census, Turner has handed Democrat Bob Ashley, a former Statehouse reporter, a welcome gift. The challenger only has to convince District 32 voters that they are better off supporting a known quantity than allowing party officials to pick a replacement for Turner after the election.

“He’s announced that he’s not going to serve in his office if people elect him. That’s an insult to the voters,” Ashley told reporters at a Statehouse news conference Monday.

___

Kokomo Tribune. Sept. 23, 2014.

End shot hysteria

In spite of an overwhelming endorsement from medical experts, some folks continue to be skeptical about the flu vaccine.

In preparation for the coming flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week 46 percent of Americans were inoculated against the flu last year, but just 41.5 percent of Hoosiers were.

Part of the concern about vaccinations grows out of a federal program in 1976. Roughly 40 million people got shots, and about 400 developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a form of paralysis. Some died.

Scientists were never able to figure out what caused those 400 cases, but some say it might have had no connection to the shots. About 140 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States every week.

In any case, medical experts argue that not taking the vaccine is a lot more dangerous than taking it.

Some point out that for the vast majority of patients, the flu is no big deal. Its victims will feel lousy for a few days, and then they’ll be back at work or in school, good as new.

Why, then, should people take the risk of getting the shots?

The answer, the experts say, is that in a very few cases, the flu can be a very big deal. It can be deadly. Influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans every year.

And the only way to protect yourself from becoming one of those victims is to take the vaccine.

Thus, the advice from the experts is straightforward: Get a vaccination.

Children under 6 months are too young for the vaccine, but everyone else should get it. The CDC this year is recommending children 2 to 8 get an intranasal flu vaccine as opposed to the traditional injection. It also is asking senior citizens to get vaccinated against pneumonia, which puts 50,000 Americans in the hospital each year.

What will happen if people ignore that advice? Medical experts say the answer is simple: A lot more people will die.

Flu season is rapidly approaching. If you want to be protected, get the shot.


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